Follow the River

Follow the River

by James Alexander Thom

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - REISSUE)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Use Standard Shipping. For guaranteed delivery by December 24, use Express or Expedited Shipping.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345338549
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/1986
Edition description: REISSUE
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 36,641
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)

About the Author

James Alexander Thom is the author of Follow the River, Long Knife, From Sea to Shining Sea, Panther in the Sky (for which he won the prestigious Western Writers of America Spur Award for best historical novel), Sign-Talker, The Children of First Man, and The Red Heart.

Read an Excerpt

Sunday, July 8, 1755
She shivered, despite the heat of the hearth, and glanced again toward the sunny rectangle of the cabin door. No one was there, not a shadow. But she felt that same uneasiness that had returned to her several times this morning: a sense that if she had looked a second sooner there would have been a figure in the doorway.
It was not the nature of Mary Draper Ingles to be afraid in the daytime. Sometimes in the deep wilderness nights, when the wolves wailed and the owls conspired high on the Blue Ridge east of the valley, when the dying fire made shapes move on the ceiling and the restless sleeping children rustled their corn-shuck mattresses, Mary Ingles would feel frightened. But seldom was she fearful in bright daylight like this, when the valley was familiar and peaceful and the locusts unreeled their eternal dry shrills under the summer sun.
Mary turned back to the cookfire. Its heat baked her sweaty face. The little black iron stewpot with the rabbit in it was almost bubbling over now. She pulled it across the iron arm a little, moving it away from the hottest coals, so that the stew might simmer the afternoon away and be at its tenderest when William came back up from the fields. The old clock at the far end of the room ticked slowly.
She brushed a strand of sweat-damp auburn hair back away from her cheek. She braced her palms on her knees to help lift her weight from the low puncheon stool and stood up, wheezing with the effort. Her swollen belly, firm and turgid with life, tugged down at all the strong young muscles of her torso. She smoothed the faded homespun cloth of her dress down over the mound and cupped her palms underneath, a caress and an appraisal. It would be happening any day now; she could feel that.
She paused there, looking through the sunny doorway, out at the lush meadows, over the dark green treetops, toward the ranks of somber Allegheny mountains marching away to the west where no one except Indians lived.
This little group of cabins at Draper’s Meadows was deeper into the mountains than any other white community in Virginia. It was the first settlement west of what her husband Will called the Allegheny “divide.” She and Will had been, indeed, the first white people wed on this wild side of the Blue Ridge. Five years ago, it had been: a pastoral wedding between the blue mountains with God seeming to breathe through the whole vast stillness of it. And they had lived prosperously and happily and in peace those five years. Their health was robust and both of their first two children had lived. The valley, fertile with limestone-rich soil where dense bluegrass grew and rippled, was irrigated by never-failing limestone springs, whose waters flowed down crystalline creeks into the lovely, twisting New River and thence out of their valley into the uncharted west. It was a place for health and high spirits, where one’s first look out the cabin door every morning made the heart swell up. So, surely her uneasiness of this morning would pass.
Of course, Mary Ingles knew, a woman’s feelings are at their most unsettled, their most skittish, when she is full of the humors of childbearing. She tried to smile away her anxiety. Even William had made light of it this morning, as he often made light of women’s fears. This morning he had passed it off just that way, as the spookishness of a mother-to-be.
“Must’ee go?” she had asked him after their Sunday morning prayers, when the valley had still been full of the shadow of the ridge. “I … I be afraid, a wee bit.
And William Ingles had hesitated here in this cabin door with his cradle scythe over one shoulder, a bag of hoecake and a watergourd over the other. He had never before heard Mary profess fear in the daytime. “Why afraid?” he had said then, with that joshing smile of his, looking down at her swollen middle. “When Tommy an’ Georgie come, y’ squzz ’em oot slick as a grape-pip. And your ma’s here to help. Bettie’s here, too, who wasna before. And if ’ee start birthin’, why, only send down for me, and y’ know I’ll come a-runnin’, Mary darlin’.”
So she had smiled him away down toward the grainfield, that great, dear, strong, hairy man whom she loved till her heart ached with the sweetness of loving, that man who kept her from being as fearful as she might have been here in the wilds with a lesser man. She had not tried to explain to him this morning that it was not the birthing she feared. Nor, really, was it anything else she could name. She had stood in the doorway and watched him join her brother Johnny Draper at the edge of the meadow, strong Johnny with his own scythe over his shoulder, and they both had turned to wave back at her as they disappeared—seemed to sink—below the rippling grass at the brow of the meadow.
They would have been working four hours in the barley by now, she reckoned—scarcely ever pausing, shirtless, pouring sweat, probably singing to give a cadence to the sweep of their scythes. She knew how they looked working because she had always worked beside them. This was the first year she had not helped with the harvest; her term was too close. But she could envision them as clearly as if she were down there. Those two were durable men and could work all day long, even in this July sun.
Her eye somehow went to William’s long rifle, which lay across its two pegs on the far wall, beside the grandfather clock, a powder horn and bullet bag hanging under it, and again she felt the foreboding. Should not he have carried the gun down to the fields with him, as he had done in the first few years? Lately he had simply dismissed it as extra weight.
The Indians who had passed up and down through Draper’s Meadows since their arrival here in 1748 had never annoyed them nor given them cause for alarm. Usually they were parties from north of the distant O-y-o River, going down to raid their enemies, the Catawbas, who lived farther south. For centuries they had used the New River as their war road through the mountains. They had caves in its cliffs and canoes secreted in its tributaries. But even in their war paint, they had always been friendly with this little vanguard of white families here in the valley. They would always drink spring water offered them in gourd dippers, smacking their lips and smiling, apparently trying to dispel any uneasiness their war-painted faces and their bristling weaponry might be causing. Sometimes they would take bread that was offered to them, eat it while nodding in appreciation, and then stand and raise their hands in a peaceful salute and continue down the ridges. And then the white people who had remained hidden inside the cabins with their flintlocks cocked, ready for the first unfriendly move, would ease forward the hammers of their guns and exhale in relief, hang up the guns and come out to resume their work or to watch the savages fade into the woods. Only twice had Indians caused any mischief in this valley: in 1749 when a band had raided the cabin of Adam Harmon to steal furs, and in 1753 when another party had stolen skins from George Hoopaugh and Jacob Harmon and killed their barking dogs. Those were old and negligible incidents. So William Ingles had got out of the habit of taking his gun with him to the fields. “More sensible, I’d say, to leave it here for your peace o’ mind,” he had joked to her once this summer.
True, there was war in the land now, in distant places along the frontier, war against the French and their Indian allies. And once, a few months ago, a young Virginia lieutenant-colonel named Washington, a serious-looking giant of a fellow but a gentleman withal, had passed through this valley with a small escort of horsemen, talking to Colonel James Patton, the valley’s militia leader, about what was happening in the distant conflict. Colonel Washington had advised Patton to have his people on their guard for armed Indian bands with Frenchmen among them.
But the people of Draper’s Meadows had seen no Frenchmen, and only friendly Indians; and the weeks had rolled on, and the plantings had been done; the crops had grown, and edibles from the woods had been gathered and preserved, and Bettie Draper’s infant son had learned to crawl, and Mary Ingles’ baby had made movements inside her; those were the main concerns of the people in this isolated valley where war surely had no reason to come. Their King was two thousand miles away in London Town and surely gave no more thought to these distant subjects of his than they gave to him. If he was at war with France, how could it affect them here in this valley His Majesty had never even heard of?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Follow the River 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 129 reviews.
Bergin More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It focuses on Mary Draper Ingles, a twenty three year old wife and mother of two, soon to be three young children. Mary, despite the hard ship of being a early American settler, is living a idyllic life on a settlement called Draper's Meadow in West Virginia with her husband William and two sons Thomas and George. The story takes a horrifying turn one morning, when a Shawnee Indian tribe attack the settlement and take Mary her two sons and her sister in law Bettie hostage while their husbands are out working in the fields. What follows is a heart wrenching story about how one woman's love, courage and her amazing will to live give her the strength to make the most incredible journey of her life. This book was well written, painfully realistic and perfectly detailed. I believe anyone who hears about Mary Ingles will find her story to be absolutely awe inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful story of survival, amazing courage, and determination. Takes you back to a time in America when our freedom wasnt yet our own. I have read it a couple times and am looking forward to read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
when i read this, i try to imagine if i would have been able to make it back my simply "following the river" Thom goes deep into this historical fiction, where the facts surrounding the story come from distant family members who had this story told to them over the years. If you love stories of peoples lives, you will love this book.
TampaRuthy More than 1 year ago
I read this years ago in a book club and never forgot it. I rediscovered it when sorting my books and read it again, enjoying it just as much as I did 25 years ago. What a story! Am going to recommend this to my current book clubs. This author has a true storytelling gift , so I'm planning on re-reading more of his books. True stories that make history come alive are my favorite and painless way to learn from the past.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book based on true events. Brave pioneers that struggled to survive and make a good life in new territory. Interesting as well as keeps you interest.
katieLM More than 1 year ago
Follow the River is a book for young adult readers about the real life story of Mary Ingles. It is a facinating account of the life of one of the first settlers in WV. It gives a clear picture of life during frontier times, and showcases one of the bravest women in history. However, be forewarned; this is NOT Little House on the Prarie.James Alexander Thom has written many books for young adult readers about frontier life in early America. He is able to bring these characters to life and make the reader feel what it would be like to live that way. In Follow the River we learn about a pioneer woman who was kidnapped and forced to live with the Shawnee tribe that stole her and her children from their home. She faces more hardships than anyone these days could imagine, including losing her children, but she manages to stay alive and return home. During her time with the indians, Mary finds an inner strength to keep her dream of getting home to her husband ,alive. She also learns there is good and bad in ALL cultures.This book has some really gory parts, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, you may want to pass this one up. I thought it made the book more realistic. Life at that time was not an episode of Little House on the Prarie. As the old Dutch woman in the book proves, the trials these people faced were enough to push some to the brink of insanity. Some, like Mary Ingles,found an inner strength to keep going. I would highly recommend this book. It is inspirational to see the kind of ancestors we have. It will be especially interesting to readers from Virginia and West Virginia where the book takes place.
Jean_wv More than 1 year ago
In the beginning of the story, Mary Draper Ingles is a young, healthy woman who is nine months pregnant. Mary, and her husband Will, and their two kids, Georgie and Tommy, live in a house in Draper Meadows. One day Will leaves to go to work and leaves Mary and the kids at the house alone. While he is gone Shawnee Indians come and kill Mary's mother and kidnaps Mary, and the kids along with another man. The Indians take them through trails, past rivers, all the way to their Indian camp. But before the make it to the camp, Mary gives birth on the trail to a baby girl. After she had given birth, Wildcat, the chief Indian favors Mary because she didn't make noise given birth. At the camp, Mary met a woman named Ghetel. While she is at the camp, she makes shirts for exchange of blankets. After a while of being at the camp, Wildcat wants Mary to be his wife, but she refuses. So Wildcat decides to get back at her. He takes her sons away from her and she is sold to Frenchmen. Then she is taken to the "land of big bones". After a while of being there Mary and Ghetel plan their escape. In order for them to escape, Mary has to leave her daughter with an Indian squaw. On the journey home, Mary and Ghetel come across some difficulties. They are running out of food to eat, so they are forced to eat things that may or may not be poisonous. They also dropped their main weapon and a blanket. But they survived. I highly recommend reading this book. I would give it 5 out of 5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a woman named mary ingles. when she is only days away from having her third child she is kidnapped by the shawnee indians. her two boys also get kidnapped with her. the indians attacked their village killing many and taking hostages. Mary and her two sons go on a treturous journey with the indians trying to survive. Mary ends up being the only one out of her family to survive the Indians and their tricks. she finds her way back to her love, william, by following the river back to her village. this book is entertaining, exciting, thrilling, and romantic. i highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read a well written story about how love can keep two people together even though they are so far apart.
desiree_wv More than 1 year ago
This book, Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom, is about a woman named Mary Ingles, happily married with two children, plus one on the way, was twenty-three when Shawnee Indians attacked her settlement, took captives, and left dead bodies. Mary was among the captives. While on their long journey to the Shawnee settlement, Mary was planning escape. She kept in mind that she belonged to Will, her husband, and only Will. She refused to be the squaw of anyone else. She built trust among the Indians and when she knew they trusted her, she slips away into the deadly wilderness, following the river, on the long journey back to Will. I liked this book because I loved Mary's spirit and hope, plus it was greatly detailed. I think James Alexander Thom is a great author!
BabsVA More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. Hard to believe it is a true story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read this book 3 times in the last 20 years....a well written story that will stir your won't ever forget it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was fascinated by the strength and courage of Mary, she was determined to get home to her husband no matter the hardship. I would wake up in the middle of the night and was drawn to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just shows how strong some women truly are! I just could not imagine anyone could go through and survive what she experienced. I also admired her for keeping her focus in the physical condition she was in...amazing woman.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I read it twice and then told everyone i knew about it. My neighbors read it then i passed it on to my family members who all read it also. I got so into this book I felt like I was with Mary on her journey. My favorit part was when Gretal, Mary's friend, threatened to eat her and Mary put her on the other side of the river. You have to read this book. Betsy Locklear NC
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very good, very descriptive book about survival and the sheer strenth and determination of a woman. However, I was also disappointed by the cover. Mary looked nothing like that, I'm sure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my fave books, it's up there with Jurassic Park.
ElizabethChapman on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I've often seen book jacket blurb-writers claim "This novel was so exciting I literally couldn't put it down," but I've only had that experience once myself -- with Follow the River.This is not high literature, but a good "old-fashioned" novel that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Based on a true story of a young woman captured by Indians in Virginia in the 1700s, Follow the River vividly conjures up Mary Ingles's world. The Indians who kidnap her are neither ruthless savages, nor idealized people living in simple harmony with the natural world. And Mary's incredible 1000-mile journey home when she escapes is beyond harrowing. The perfect escapist read, pun intended.
LibraryBlondie on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This is a really good book about the capture of a white pioneer woman by a Shawnee war party and then her subsequent escape. If this book had just been loosely based on historical fact for the purposes of entertainment, I probably would have given it four stars. One star is definitely for the author's effort to base both the story and the characters on reality to the point that is humanly possible when writing about someone who live in the mid 1700s while still making the story flow well. The note from the author at the end was as fascinating as the book itself. James Alexander Thom did an amazing job of recreating the life and journey of Mary Ingles. He researched the facts that were available to a great extend and then made much of Mary's journey himself in order to describe it accurately. This really shows in the book. So does his knowledge of Shawnee culture of the time. He is a very believable writer. This makes for great historical fiction. You can tell that Thom really feels his characters. and he brings them to life. The story is faced paced when it should be and drags just enough during the tedium of Mary's journey to represent how it must have drug on for her and her companion. I read one critical review of this book that suggested it would have been better if more had been said of the conflict (The French and Indian War) that spurred the Native American hostility of the time. I have to disagree with this. Though the time period and it's events are obviously important to the story, Thom presents it from Mary's perspective as a white captive. That perspective is at times one of respect for her captors, but mostly one of anger and hate at the people who killed members of her family, took her prisoner and stole her children. It is a realistic depiction of how she must have felt, and any effort to show the other side of the story would have felt false.
bookheaven on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Set in 1755, based on true story.
jayceebee on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Beware: this book is addictive!
chichyJakMysz on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I like these historical fictions. =)
debnance on LibraryThing 23 days ago
This book was a surprise by me. I didn't expect to like it so much, but it was a wonderful women's adventure story.
bratlaw on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Mary Ingals lived in Draper's meadow. In the year 1755 a pregnant Mary, her two sons, and sister-in-law were captured by indians. For thirty days they followed the new river to the Shawnee town on The Ohio river. This story tells of her escape with another captive. For 45 days without weapons and provisions the two escapees walked home in late fall, early winter back to draper's meadow. What a wonderful testament to the pioneer spirit, the struggle and perseverance of a determined soul to get home.
allreadnowrite on LibraryThing 23 days ago
What a paragon of a woman! Amazing tale of physical and emotional determination and survival. Thom explains her actions in a way that makes sense, despite the incredulous nature of her choices. Well worth the trip upriver.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome. A book I will never forget—especially the main characters